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    Friday, January 18, 2019-11:22:58A.M.






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Court denies company’s preliminary injunction in property dispute

THE Superior Court has denied an application for a preliminary injunction filed by a commercial warehouse company against a landowner.

Old Lady LLC, through attorneys Thomas E. Clifford and Jordan Sundell, has asked the court to prohibit Mary Ann Milne from blocking Old Lady’s use of an access ramp located on Milne’s land.

In her ruling, Judge Pro Tempore Maria T. Cenzon said: “Even if the court were to adopt Old Lady’s characterization of the facts, it is very unlikely that it would be successful in establishing that it is entitled to an equitable servitude thereby allowing it to use the front lot ramp.”

She said “the prospect of irreparable harm is quite minimal — if it exists at all — because Old Lady has an alternative access point and its potential breach of its sublease agreements concern mere breaches of contract, which could be compensated with money damages.”

Cenzon said the balance of hardships falls in favor of Milne, who is represented by attorneys Matthew T. Gregory and Charles Reyes Jr.

A ruling in favor of Old Lady would significantly impact Milne’s right to quiet enjoyment of her property, the judge said.

“Indeed, the instability caused by Old Lady’s suit had already resulted in Milne’s new lease of the front lot to be terminated for cause,” she added.

The judge said Old Lady LLC is only “inconvenienced” by having to physically create a passage through a lot that it has apparent authority to access.

“To rule in favor of Old Lady’s preliminary injunction application would at the very least tacitly recognize that a leasehold and fee simple ownership are synonymous. Such a result would run afoul of [the CNMI Constitution’s] Article 12 mandate,” the judge said.

She noted that the dispute “centers over whether Old Lady is legally entitled to ingress and egress from its commercial warehouse by crossing Milne’s portion of the commercial warehouse.”

The commercial warehouse, located on Beach Road, is the site of the now defunct Basic Construction & Supply Corporation.

The commercial warehouse development is split into two contiguous lots. Milne holds the front lot in fee simple while Old Lady holds a long-term lease for the back lot which is set to expire in 2047.

Basic Construction constructed the existing commercial development, which consists of a warehouse on the front lot, a warehouse on the back lot, as well as a ramp on the front lot that provides access to the back lot.

Since it held leases for both lots, Basic Construction constructed its commercial development on the front lot and back as if the two parcels were one.

Basic Construction’s shutdown resulted in the assignment of its separate leasehold interests in the front and back lot.

Trans Pacific Export Company took over the leasehold for the front and back lots.

In 2011, Trans Pacific’s interest in the front lot was terminated and reverted to Milne while its interest in the back lot was assigned to Old Lady LLC.

On March 17, 2016, Milne sent a letter to Old Lady’s authorized representative stating that Old Lady’s ingress and egress from the back lot across the front lot would not be permitted as Old lady had no legal right to cross property.

As a result of that letter, Old Lady filed a lawsuit against Milne.

Old Lady claimed it was entitled “to an equitable easement with the back lot as the dominant estate and the front lot as the servient estate.”

Old Lady also wanted to be able to use the ramp designed to give the back lot warehouse convenient access to Beach Road.

Old Lady wants an order from the court prohibiting Milne from blocking Old Lady’s use of the front lot ramp for accessing the back lot.